2018 Tesla Model 3
Tesla is a car company unlike any other; doing business more like a tech startup than an automotive brand. That’s served them well for their high priced S sedan and X utility. But, things have not gone smoothly for the entry-level Model 3. Still, they are coming out of the factory in decent numbers now, so its high time to find out if it’s a must have gadget, or truly the car of tomorrow…today.
It’s fitting that Tesla chose Model 3 as the name for their entry-level EV, as they are looking to do for battery electric sedans what the BMW 3 Series has done for sport sedans, become the new benchmark for others to follow.
Other than lacking an upper grille slot, the compact Model 3 bares a strong resemblance to the larger Model S. Its slick front end leads to a very big windshield; where the arching roofline flows hatchback-like to a very short rear deck and tall back end.
Body panel fitment is not as great as what you’d find in the typical luxury car, let alone a Hyundai Elantra; but we hear improvements are being made as production continues to ramp up.
The interior is surprisingly pleasant; new era minimalism at its finest. Just a long linear dash with air vents, a steering wheel with two stalks, and a horizontal touch screen jutting out of that IP. No buttons, dials, knobs, to be found, save for some programmable scroll wheels on the steering wheel.
All info is displayed on that 15-inch center video panel, and there’s a wealth of it; however, it is fixed and cannot be tilted towards the driver, requiring you to take your eyes off the road a lot. Making things worse, there’s quite often a glare on the screen that keeps you from seeing it clearly.
All seating positions are rather comfortable; and both rear and front trunks offer plenty of space for storage.
On the road, the ride is well composed, with a solidly tight but not jarring ride. It indeed drives much like a European sport sedan.
Our test car came courtesy of local owner Bill Clarke, and the excellent driving experience is his favorite aspect of the car.
BILL CLARKE: “The Model 3 is a great vehicle as a driving vehicle; it feels tight, responsive, very powerful. The handling is similar to a BMW in my opinion; I like that nice, tight German feel to a car. The power is almost as much as the Model S that I had previously, so a nice quick responsive car.”
JOHN DAVIS: There is a somewhat noisy rear suspension, mostly noticeable because of the lack of engine noise. But, Bill’s right on; with an output of 271-horsepower the Model 3 is quite fast. A typical 0-60 run takes about 5.0-seconds.
There’s also lots of windshield to look through, giving you a wide angle view of all that lies ahead. And, with our car’s Premium Package, the full length glass roof means everyone on board can sight see.
This rear-driver also had the Long Range battery pack, which is the only one available right now. Tesla doesn’t provide exact specs, but it is rated in the neighborhood of 70-kWh. Base 50-kWh models, as well as twin-motor all-wheel-drive versions, will be added into the production mix later this year.
There’s 310 miles of range with the bigger battery, so we’d go with that. Range for the base model is 220-miles.
Just as in its larger kin, the Model 3’s charging port is integrated into the driver’s side tail light cluster. Still cool, no matter how many times we see it.
We are definitely not sold however, on the no key aspect. We actually had an app snafu with our test car, and even the backup proximity card wouldn’t let us get the car started quickly.
The government gives the Model 3 MPGe Ratings of 136-City, 123-Highway, and 130-Combined. For a near perfect Energy Impact Score, responsible for just 2/10 of a barrel of oil use annually and zero CO2 emissions.
The $35,000 mass market Model 3 that garnered all of the original hype and down payments has yet to emerge. Only the bigger battery model is available right now. That means with other extras like the Premium Package and Auto Pilot, this “3” can easily top $50,000. So, it’s still mostly an early adopter proposition.
Still, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is the best convergence of high technology and the practical automobile that we’ve yet seen. And, it does drive great! Yet, it remains to be seen if it truly is the game changing car of the future. But, one thing is for sure; it is here right now, and will be the populous EV benchmark for years to come.
H2 the Rescue
How Hydrogen Can Help First Responders
Mounting an effective response to natural disasters or emergency situations often comes down to having the right vehicles and equipment on standby. This week we look at a prototype rescue truck that relies on clean power technology to let first responders hit the ground running.
Efficient use of time and resources in the first hours after a hurricane, flood, fire, or winter storm, especially in remote areas, is critical for setting up a successful recovery operation.
H2@Rescue is a hydrogen fuel cell/battery hybrid truck that can mobilize to disaster sites within a 180-mile range, and then provide power, heating and cooling, and even create water on-site for up to 72 hours before refueling.
The project is a collaboration between several federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the Army Corps of Engineers and private sector partners. We caught up with the team at Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab, where functionality testing was underway.
NICHOLAS JOSEFIK: “The H2@Rescue gives us an opportunity to bring an emergency vehicle into a situation where there is no power or water, and get some eyes on the situation. We can immediately have a command center, we can immediately be producing power– 25 kilowatts worth of power– and we can be generating water on site that could be used.”
H2@Rescue is a Class 7 heavy duty truck weighing approximately 33,000 pounds.The box body is climate controlled and can act as a mobile command center or warming/cooling shelter during an emergency. The truck carries 176 kilograms of hydrogen onboard, in high-pressure tanks. Hydrogen fuel has an energy density about three times that of gas or diesel, and the electric drivetrain used in this truck is more efficient than a similar internal combustion engine.
Conversion of the Kenworth chassis from diesel to hydrogen power was spearheaded by Accelera by Cummins, a new subsidiary of the traditionally diesel-driven engine maker, that will focus on zero-emissions power solutions for the future.
PRATEEK VAISH: “It has a fuel cell, which produces 90 kilowatts at max. There’s a high-voltage battery, which is 155 kilowatt-hours, and there is a traction motor, which is 250. So, in a nutshell, how this vehicle operates is: The fuel cell charges the battery, and the battery provides power to the traction– traction motor. But if the battery is low on charge, the fuel cell can also provide power to the traction motor.”
The transport and fueling infrastructure for hydrogen still lags behind conventional fuels in terms of cost and number of locations due to the need for pressurized tanks and other factors, but that gap could be closed in the future, since hydrogen can be produced and stored locally, potentially right at a fueling site.
Accelera is already a global leader in fuel cell applications with more than 2,000 fuel cells and 600 electrolyzers – the machines that separate hydrogen from water — already in use.
Lessons learned here will help them develop zero-emission power solutions for other vocational vehicles, like electric utility trucks, transit buses, delivery vehicles and long-haul trucks.
PRATEEK VAISH: “And we’re doing a lot of work towards destination zero, which is we’re trying to decarbonize the whole Cummins portfolio by 2050, so this is a great step in that direction.”
H2@Rescue passed the NREL testing with flying colors, proving that hydrogen power can fulfill the critical needs of first responders in these extraordinary situations, and showing one pathway to a zero-emission future for vehicles of all sizes.
As we transition to a zero-emission driving future, developing a robust and accessible EV charging infrastructure for both consumers and fleets will be critical, especially in big cities.
So, to help New York meet this challenge, utility supplier Con Edison is also transforming itself into a clean energy powerhouse, and setting an example for cities across the country.
Like many cities, New York is preparing for a sharp increase in electric vehicle registrations over the next ten years. The task of supplying electricity to support those EV’s falls to Con Edison. They’re one of the nation’s largest energy companies, delivering electricity, natural gas and steam to 3.5 million customers in New York City and Westchester County.
Con Edison’s fleet of service vehicles are a common sight around New York, but they are taking on a new look…
FORTUNATO GULINO: “We have approximately 2000 light duty vehicles which will be, uh, fully electrified, uh, by 2035; uh, and the remainder of approximately 3000 vehicles, uh, will be medium and heavy-duty electrification, or some other, uh, greenhouse-lowering technology.”
Con Edison now buys only electric vehicles for its light-duty fleet, but moving away from fossil fuels is a more challenging task for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles due to their size and operational needs.
This all-electric bucket truck from Terex is just starting a three-year field trial with Con Edison.
FORTUNATO GULINO: “The range on this specific vehicle is approximately 130 miles, but what’s unique about this vehicle is it’s got two battery systems. They’re independent of each other. It’s about a 210 kilowatt hour battery for the truck, which gives you 130 mile range, and then you have approximately 30 kilowatt hour battery to operate the actual aerial unit behind me. And that will probably provide you, uh, 2 shift operation, or about 16 hours of operations of… of bucket use.”
Con Edison’s on-the-job experience with this and other service vehicles also provides invaluable feedback to the truck manufacturers, as they continue developing zero-emission medium and heavy duty trucks in the future.
On the consumer side, Con Edison has instituted several programs to encourage EV ownership:
Smartcharge New York is a program that offers cash incentives for charging at off-peak times in New York City and Westchester. This reduces stress on the energy grid and makes service more reliable for everyone.
AMELIA BERMAN: “EV drivers love this, because they’re getting money to charge at off-peak times. It’s also great for our grid, because we have to make less investments in our power system, so ultimately it’s going to be lower energy bills for everybody.”
Con Edison is helping expand access to curbside EV chargers across the city by partnering with the NYC Department of Transportation and FLO, one of North America’s largest EV charging networks.
Power-ready offers incentives that can offset the costs for installing level 2 or DC fast charging stations at commercial facilities, parking lots and multifamily residential properties.
AMELIA BERMAN: “It’s really important that as you drive around, you see that there are publicly accessible chargers. Drivers are going to feel more comfortable in buying or purchasing their first electric vehicle. Uh, we’ve installed 3000 chargers so far, and we’re going to install 19,000 by 2025, and, fingers crossed, 400,000 by 2035.”
Smart civic planning and aggressive implementation are keys for any community to stay ahead of the electric vehicle curve. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on Con Edison as their clean energy vision becomes reality.